Focusing on Team Building in Math Teams

We work in teams to complete math on a daily basis. The only day my class is set up in rows is on test day. Most of my students are used to the team model as they have experienced this classroom structure in previous high school math classes, and even in middle school for some students. However, even with this background, many of my students do not engage in productive ways. I have students who work ahead alone, students who are afraid to ask questions of their teammates, or students who simply do not see the point of teamwork. In my research, I wanted to focus on teamwork and how to help students become effective team members. A fellow teacher shared a video about squirrels on the UCLA campus having to work together to solve a problem.  Showing this felt like a good way to help my classes focus on teamwork and team roles.

I asked my students to think about these reflection questions while they were watching:

  • Do you relate to the big squirrel or the little squirrel and why?
  • How does this situation feel like math class?
  • Who fills each role in your team?
  • What made this video inspirational?
  • What stood out to you?

Then I showed the video. After the video was over, I put the reflection questions up again and asked students to think about them before sharing ideas with their teammates.

I then had groups share out ideas and we had a great class converSquirrelsation about who fills which role and why. We talked about how some students need to keep trying to see multiple ways to solve a problem.  The students acknowledged that sometimes we all need to get help in order to understand a concept. We also discussed how important it is for the “big squirrels” in the team to stay with everyone else and not just plow ahead alone.  Working with a team helps everyone get over “the wall”.

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